Taking time to look after yourself is always important, even when you’re not really doing anything – perhaps particularly when you’re not doing anything. Some game developers have realised this, and have released a bundle on the indie game site itch.io, aptly named the Care Package Bundle.
The Care Package Bundle consists of seven games for around £5, so it’s an absolute steal. With these seven all being totally different genres and styles, there’s plenty for players to dig into. I talked to one of the developers, Cameron (@JustCamH on Twitter), who developed Adventure For A Bit, one of the games on the bundle. Cameron, a Physics student from Australia, has been working on games casually for about five years, putting out titles like Hole Punch, Verest, and Snek on Itch.io.
A big aspect of making games is the fluctuation of the scope and vision of the project as development rolls on; for me this is typified by huge amounts of cut content, in games like Bloodborne, and games which can’t live up to their own hype, as we saw recently with Cyberpunk 2077.
Cameron talked about keeping projects manageable being a big drive behind the bundle, from a developer point of view: ‘The scope of a project typically blows up as new ideas are created and so the development time frame just extends forever until you lose interest’. Cameron then explained the team’s solution to this problem: ‘We’ve been supporting each other, sharing our work and sharing encouragement. We were able to talk about our progress and ideas, and that helped keep everything in scope.’ It seems that a sense of belonging to a collective has helped the games come together, and an appropriate level of coordination and support has resulted in this successful package dedicated to the concept of self-care.
There didn’t seem to be a grand scheme in deciding who made what; a diverse group of developers, all with unique experiences and preferences, has resulted in a really interesting mix of titles. Cameron says: ‘There wasn’t too much co-ordination in the genres. I knew I wanted to do something different, and the other devs did a great job finding their own unique angles!’ These angles are something really impressive to see in such a concise bundle. With only seven games on offer, having such a varied range is excellent.
His game Adventure For A Bit is hard to put in a box. It’s heavily influenced by No Man’s Sky, but other than that it’s tricky to pin down. It’s not quite a walking sim, as the story happens elsewhere, and it doesn’t have the same reliance on the actual procedural generation, as the exploration of the worlds being created is its own reward. Cameron sums it up as being ‘about an AI who wants to create a perfect procedural world.
The AI is named Bit, and you can play their creations and give feedback to help them learn and create something better.’ While the idea of rating and tailoring the worlds to your tastes is a nice mechanic, what Adventure For A Bit does particularly well is the sense of exploration and conversation. The loading screens are filled with chats with Bit, and through these conversations, you learn more and more about the friendly little AI.
The writing in these loading screen conversations can be pretty good – it feels real, natural sounding, and layers gameplay where you wouldn’t normally expect to see any.
The games in the Care Package Bundle are all wildly different from each other. You have the likes of HappBee, a cutesy 3D platformer developed by Sonicboomcolt, about a bee who’s afraid of heights fighting mosquitoes. There’s also Magnum Opus X, developed by ZIK, in which you ‘defend the world from negativity with your comically large gun,’ in a 2D platformer inspired by the pixel games of yesteryear, bouncing about the map whacking bad guys with your large piece.
A real standout is Lonely People Potion Shop, developed by Kultisti, a visual novel about being a witch in the woods making potions for different people. As with the other games in the bundle, this sees a big wave of positivity wash over you as you play. With pretty simple Cooking Mama-style gameplay, most of the story revolves around talking to your friends and customers; coming from a customer facing role, getting back to it in digital form was odd at first, but the game really lends itself to being embraced full on.
Having some smaller, more manageable titles for me to work through while writing this has been super delightful – being able to put that grim, beige shooter, or the 300 hour JRPG to the side for a few hours, and just play some games specifically created around the idea of positivity. It’s been great to get into something where there really isn’t any stress and there are no monsters, no terrorists; just good vibes and cute games. The way that these games have been put together, and the care taken to make sure they succeed in their goal of embodying positivity, is really impressive.
Having something new to play has also been an absolute blessing. My quest to buy a new console has proved to arduous, with delays coming thick and fast due to COVID. And it’s nice to see the real DIY devs fill the space left by the bigger teams. So take the time, treat yourself for the price of a coffee, and pick up some games you can just enjoy! There’s no badness, no stress, just seven games that are pretty bloody good. Do yourself a favour and cop it.